The recruitment industry is a perfect fit for the benefits that cloud computing offers to both users and business owners.
Historically (and still the case) the recruitment sector is highly fragmented. Before the worldwide recession hit in 2008, there were approximately 15,000 recruitment companies out there operating in the UK alone. The next two years saw this drop back by as much as 25% but the last year or so has seen the number swell again. It’s a profession populated with start-ups. Sales-driven consultants with strong client relationships are tempted to strike out on their own and the few barriers to entry encourage this. Anecdotally, something like 95% of these companies have fewer than five employees.
As a sum result, these companies are small and highly agile. In addition, success in recruitment means the likelihood of working outside of the traditional 9-to-5 working day – candidates themselves may be working and so after-work hours may be required to facilitate discussions.
As a profession with a strong sales culture, recruiters may need to be fleet of foot or certainly mobile, and increasingly, remote working is being adopted to further impact fixed overhead. Perhaps paramount of all, the data that everyone has access to with needs to be as current as possible.
Recruitment businesses ideally need recruitment systems that are easy to set up with low upfront cash requirements, perhaps with the added benefit of incurring operational expense rather than capital cost and the tax efficiencies that go along with that. They need data that is available to all and updated for all, accessible 24/7 and from wherever in the country (or world) they happen to be.
And that is a perfect summary of the key benefits of Software as a Service (SaaS), or Cloud Computing as it is more currently labelled.
Of course, Cloud Computing isn’t a new concept. Many of us have had access to a Hotmail or a Yahoo mail account, perhaps for personal use, for many years and we don’t give it a second thought. Many of us get our television services delivered by cable or satellite – a similar concept to cloud. And at an enterprise level, terminal services have been with us for some time (as tortured users can readily testify). It’s just that the benefits of the cloud are now being enjoyed far more by all manner of businesses and whilst those benefits are now being discovered (and enjoyed) at the enterprise level, of course the SME sector have been early adopters – and recruitment is part of the backbone of SME culture.
So, how does it work?
Essentially, the software publishers make their applications available via browser over the Internet. They make all of the investment necessary in delivery infrastructure; servers, routers, backup, administration, connectivity, and so forth. And it is this that represents the big saving in investment for the users.
If I access my software and data this way, I don’t need to spend a certain percentage of my time either being an IT expert or employing one directly. Of course I probably have a reputable IT support company looking after my desktop/laptop/mobile/pad/printer/internet type hardware but I’ve removed a server, the need to maintain (and regularly replace) it and to manage it, and the need to install and manage VPN’s for remote access. And typically, if I am subscribed to a SaaS service then instead of paying for software licences upfront and outright, I am paying a monthly subscription. At this point in the economic cycle, anything that keeps cash in the business a bit longer has got to be a good thing!
However, Cloud Computing is a description that covers all manner of different methods of delivery. From the relatively simple concept of a hosted application that sits on a server in a data centre and is accessible remotely to the more robust dedicated infrastructure platforms with sophisticated multi-tenancy (groups of servers) handling separate application tasks – all provide a means to access data from the cloud.
Who are the experts?
Two of the biggest players in SaaS (although not specifically recruitment related) are Salesforce and Google. Both use a multi-tenant platform that guarantees high levels of availability and uptime – an essential requirement for businesses using their applications in a business critical manner.
As an example of UK-based Recruitment Software there are now several providers supporting a cloud-based service (e.g. evolve™, Eploy, Bullhorn, ITRIS, etc) and for most recruiters, use of the software is likely to be business critical. Apart from the benefits highlighted above, recruiters using cloud based services find that they can open new offices quickly and easily (perhaps expanding geographically) and they can recover rapidly from potentially business-threatening situations such as theft or loss/failure of critical hardware. The key descriptor here is agility.
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Why would I want it?
Of course there are other considerations that users need to take into account when considering a move to cloud based services;
- How secure is the service?
- Do I now need an internet disaster recovery or backup plan?
- Is the supplier going to be around for the long term?
- Can I get access to my data if I want to move elsewhere?
Also worth considering is whether the service provider is working on maintaining a single code base or whether each instance is client specific.
A single code base has the substantial benefit of giving all users access to most of the improvements that are made to the application over time without necessarily being charged for an upgrade. This ensures that the application is likely to be up to date on an ongoing basis and the service provider only has to support one system rather than several semi-bespoke versions. Of course the corollary to this is that you may have greater restriction on any customisation that you can do and you will inevitably find functionality in the application that you just won’t use.
By contrast, service providers simply hosting individual instances of the application for each individual client may be faced with a much broader support challenge and a more tiered investment need in their server array (as each server fills, there is a need to invest in more on a step function basis). And whilst the ability to customise may be greater, any upgrade plan is fraught with the need to reconcile many different versions of the application.
Bottom line however is that there is no reason to consider cloud based services any differently to on-premise installations. When all is said and done, the decision to use a particular application or service is determined primarily on the business benefits that it brings versus other solutions, not just how sexy the technology might be It’s just that cloud has many advantages that are really worth looking into.
Although it is a relative no-brainer decision for a start-up company or for smaller companies, it is rapidly being considered by medium and large sized businesses as well and the uptake of cloud based solutions continues to outperform versus on-premise software installation.